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FG, ASUU And Education Funding

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There is no gainsaying the fact that virtually all sectors of the Nigerian economy, including the education sector are in urgent need of attention in terms of human and material resources. The infrastructure has broken down, there is serious security challenge in the northern part of the country while crude oil theft in the Niger Delta has resulted in the country losing over 300,000 barrels of crude daily, or an equivalent of $1 billion to oil thieves without any solution in sight.
But one that touches the common people most is the incessant closure of our universities whenever the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU embarks on strike, like it is currently doing. Though the plethora of problems facing the universities did not start with the present administration, the thinking in most quarters is that education sector needs a lot of boost to discourage the capital flight to other neighbouring African countries and overseas occasioned by Nigerians going outside to seek quality education.
This situation of gross neglect which has brought our education system to the abyss needs to be addressed if our youth could be properly prepared to take leadership  roles in future. That education funding has been consigned to the backroom is the main grouse of the ASUU which has been on strike for sometime now, with a vow by its leadership to hold out for as long as the federal government desires, is bad for all stakeholders at this. One, therefore, wonders what the federal government wants to make of the universities it established if it continues to deny them of much needed funds for infrastructure and staff development.
At the last count, Nigeria could boast of 129 universities out of which 51 are privately, owned while 38 are operated by the various state governments, leaving the federal government with 40 universities across the land. It  is, however, disturbing that there is no year that academic activities in the federal universities  are not disrupted following one disagreement or the other between the federal  government and ASUU on issues concerning the well-being of the institutions and by extension our youth who are the students therein.
It is, therefore, sad to note that despite efforts by the ASUU and other associated union, in the system to keep the flag flying, the federal government’s penchant for reneging on agreements reached with the union has been the bane of smooth, uninterrupted academic sessions which we are craving for.
The recent strike embarked upon by the ASUU is a case in point. The union feels short-changed because the federal government would not keep to the terms of an agreement it reached with it in 2009. Reports indicate that the current face-off between ASUU and the federal government was traceable to the latter’s failure to keep faith with the 2009 agreement  which it merely did by honouring two out of the demands. It is instructive that the major demand of the university lecturers, the need to improve on the sectoral allocation to education in the annual budget to meet the minimum standard of 26 per cent, as stipulated by the UNESCO, has never been  met.
The question which keeps recurring and needing speedy answers is why is, it difficult for the federal government to commit 26 per cent of its annual budget to the education sector, and why is the federal government toying with education in today’s knowledge-driven univers?  Failure on the part of the federal government to do this has been the major justification of ASUU in calling out its members from the classrooms without any consideration of the ripple effect of its action on the students and the economy in general. But could ASUU be blamed for seeking to uplift our tertiary institutions from their current state of glorified secondary schools, to proper university status?
Taking into consideration that the agreements which the federal government failed to redeem were entered into in 2009, the ASUU may not be blamed in the current state of affairs, particular by if goings-on  in government circles with regard to the revenue accruing to the federal  government and disbursement of funds to sundry sectors, is anything to go by. This is why I am aligning myself  with those who blame the government for relegating tertiary education. For instance, the average sectoral allocation to the sector between 2000 and 2010 is a paltry 8.12 per cent.
This is very appalling coming from a democratic civilian regime that is expected to do more for such an important sector than the military which allocated an average of 12.87 per cent of its annual budget to education between 1991 and 1996.
This is why students experienced a meteoric  rise in fees in tertiary institutions across the country in 2010 which was a strategy adopted by the institutions in their bid to break even. It is thus saddening that the federal government attitude to tertiary education funding contributed to the fact that no Nigerian university could be found among the first 5000 in the world or the first 50 in Africa . All said, the need to boost tertiary education through adequate funding to arrest the on-going brain drain is an obligation that the government cannot run away from. Besides, if the quantum of resources Nigerians spend in seeking qualitative education for their children abroad is anything to go by then our education system is in dire need of a turn-around.
To boost funding for the education sector, the federal government could use a proportion of the excess crude oil revenue to settle the problems of a sector that is clearly the live wire of a progressive society. Treating the education sector otherwise could yield more cultists, armed robbers and kidnappers that help ensure the well-to-do in society sleep with one eye open.

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Opinion

The Tomfoolery of RIVLEAF

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There indeed seems to be no end, as far as nay sayers are concerned, in the quest to frustrate the efforts being made by the Rivers State Government to ensure that the spread of the coronavirus in Rivers State is reasonably checked.
On a daily basis, this becomes more apparent to the chagrin of genuinely concerned people of the State.
Although it is not a surprise that RIVLEAF, supposedly a pressure group has always announced itself as a purveyor of ill-contrived negative information, its latest attempt to dismiss a genuine alarm raised by the Rivers State Government regarding a foreseen build-up to a declaration of State of emergency in the State, has further exposed the membership of the organisation as persons with cowardly and sychophantic intentions.
At a time like this, when the whole world is still baffled over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has not only exposed even the hitherto world super powers in all spheres of their existence, but has so made it clear that everyone must be involved in order to check the pandemic, all RIVLEAF has to offer is an attempt to discredit the world acclaimed efforts of the Rivers State

Government under the leadership of Governor Nyesom Wike to ensure that the coronavirus does not get to the stage of Community transmission in the State.
It is indeed an irony of faith, that people who say they’re a pressure group do not actually know what it means to be a pressure group. They do not know, for instance, that one key role of a pressure group in the development of a society is to provide specialised and expert information to the government and explain government policies to the understanding and benefit of the general public. Thus they are an important link between the government and the people.
This explains their choice of caption, “Governor Wike Needs Help”, and the fact that rather than address in cogent terms the issue at stake, all they could do is to seek to raise irrelevant issues to cause rife between the President and the Governor, and with his Deputy.
What is really “funny and disturbing” about a clear statement that there is “a plan to declare a state of emergency in Rivers State? And, rather than categorically state what makes it funny and disturbing, all Onyeche Nnatah Peters could say is that Governor Wike “boasted that he was beyond the reproach of the Federal Government and, could do and undo as he so wishes”.
This statement in itself is a confirmation of the Governor’s proclamation of a plot to declare a state of emergency in the State, for reasons that have to do with Wike being seen as somebody who must be dealt with. The question is, for what reason?.
The most clear answer to this question is that from the point he started preparing to be the Governor of Rivers State, through his first tenure, and about a year into his second tenure, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike had had to accept the peculiarities of Rivers State in the present State of affairs in the country, and had adjusted to the point of being able to provide good governance to Rivers people as minimally as possible in the face of unrelenting and determined efforts to frustrate him.
This is why every step of governance he has taken has turned out to be timely, and lauded in the given circumstance it is taken by all well-meaning public globally, especially as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the world knows is a new virus, hence decisions to combat it are mostly taken based on the exigencies of the moment. This is, of course, knowing the peculiarity of the virus as it relates to Nigeria, and Rivers State in healthcare delivery.
To say the least, Governor Wike has been setting the pace in steps taken to contain the coronavirus across Nigeria: amongst others, he was the first to set up an Interministarial COVID-19 Committee, the first to set up a palliatives committee, first to declare border lockdown, etc.
Even in the face of clear attempts to sabotage his efforts, Wike had been undeterred towards ensuring that the State does not get to Community transmission of the virus as is the case with some States. Beyond this determination to give good and transparent leadership to a people who understand his every step, and so are fully behind him, what else can the likes of RIVLEAF blame Wike of?
If the membership of RIVLEAF are truly of Rivers origin, and have the State at heart, they should be in a better position to appreciate the kind of development the State has recorded in the last five years.
Therefore, seeking to forment trouble where there’s none, such as between the Governor and his Deputy, Dr Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, is a wasteful venture. This is because Rivers people have come to know what the interest of RIVLEAF is, and it has nothing to do with the overall interest of Rivers people.
Soibi Max-Alalibo
SA on Media to the Hon Commissioner for Information and Communications
Rivers State
May 21, 2020.
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Opinion

Dakuku Should Stop Playing To The Gallery

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Sociologists have what they call “Looking Glass Theory”. The crux of this theory is that people are prone to naming others, or something, by what they truly are, or what they have in store as experience.
For someone whose dream to be governor had been scuttled severally because of his unpopularity ,one can easily understand where Dakuku Peterside is coming from.
In his veiled attempt to be one of those who “came out openly to oppose Governor Nyesom Wike” at this point in time he exposed himself as a political toddler.
 All over the world today, well-meaning people are joining hands with their governments to check the spread of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, it is in this context that Dr Dakuku Peterside has displayed his lack of knowledge of the key ingredients of governance at crisis periods.
The need for law and order at all times, more so in crisis periods as the COVID-19 pandemic has instituted globally, compels governments  to take painful but necessary actions to save lives.
Thank God Dakuku Peterside supports “the Governor to ensure that the state is free from Coronavirus”, but how he expects this to come to fruition if people disobey directives put in place at will, raises a huge question mark.
In the light of  his latest condemnation of the Governor’s order to demolish two hotels found to have flouted a lockdown directive, Dakuku has again displayed his penchant for grandstanding.
Maybe he should learn some lessons from the role played by the  Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva who attracted Federal presence  to Bayelsa State during this period eventhough he belonged to the opposition in home State.
Dakuku’s stance in the face of an affront on an Executive Order which resulted in the demolition of two hotels in Eleme yesterday, without  considering the true circumstances that led to the demolition questions his citizenship as a Rivers son.
He should know what it means  to attack people authorised to perform legitimate duties under an  Executive Order.  Dakuku would not have declared genuine people-oriented actions by Governor Wike as “destructive” if he was well informed.
Rivers people are not foolish enough not to know that but for the stringent proactive measures put in place to check the spread of the virus by Governor Wike, the State would have entered community transmission like some other States in the Country.
Dakuku Peterside should therefore desist from the temptation of endangering the lives of the people he pontificates to care for, knowing that every act has its day of reckoning.
Soibi Max-Alalibo,
SA on Media to the Hon Commissioner
Ministry of Information and Communications
Rivers State.
May 11, 2020
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Opinion

Austin Tam-George: An Intellectual Prostitute Let Loose

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Austin Tam-George has consistently been biting the finger that fed him because he is an intellectual prostitute.
He looks for every available opportunity to lampoon Governor Nyesom Wike in order to impress his paymasters as a paid hack without conscience.
Someone like Austin Tam-George does not have the moral standing to discuss governance because his tenure as Commissioner for Information in Rivers State was a monumental failure.
A man who used his first month in office as Commissioner to throw 2O Rivers indigenes who were earning a living in the Ministry as casual workers into the unemployment market surely loves Rivers State.
Perhaps Austin Tam-George’s patriotism also led him to seize the monthly imprests meant for Departments in the Ministry.
Maybe he should explain to Rivers people and the those he is serving why a Commissioner should arm twist Heads of Parastatals under him to make monthly returns to quench his voracious appetite for money.
Was it not his kinsman in one of the parastatals that engaged him in a verbal warfare along William Jumbo Street in Port Harcourt that helped to tame his unquenchable taste for money?
His grouse with Governor Wike is because the over inflated and bogus proposals he made under the guise of upgrading the State Media Houses without recourse to the Bureau for Public Procurement were turned down by the governor who insisted on due process.
Austin Tam-George was quoted as saying that he will never forgive Governor Wike for not allowing him dupe the government.
The likes of Austin Tam-George are always available for the highest bidder that is why his recent outburst should not be taken seriously.
When he was looting the money generated by parastatals under him he never remembered United Nations and European Union.
As the proverbial dog that eats the bone hung on his neck, he milked the media houses dry before he was sacked from the State Executive Council.
He should know that the record of monies siphoned from the Media houses are still in the archives and will be released if he dares to make any more noise.
If Governor Wike did not retain him in his cabinet because he lacked character is it enough to look for any slightest opportunity to impugn his integrity?
Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. A word is enough for the wise.
Paulinus Nsirim, Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State
May 11,2020.
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